High caffeine consumption linked to increased risk of glaucoma; Study

By Ashika Rajan, Trainee Reporter
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You might want to keep a check on your daily intake of caffeine as a new study has found that consuming excessive amounts of caffeine daily may increase the risk of glaucoma more than three-fold for those with a genetic predisposition to higher eye pressure.

The research led by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is the first to show a dietary-genetic connection in glaucoma. The study results may suggest patients with a significant family history of glaucoma may want to limit their caffeine use.

Glaucoma is the biggest cause of blindness in the US, so the research is crucial. It looks at the effects of caffeine intake on glaucoma and intraocular pressure (IOP), which is pressure inside the eye.

Elevated IOP is an integrated risk factor for glaucoma, although other factors do contribute to this condition. Patients with glaucoma usually have little or no symptoms until the disease progresses and vision loss occurs.

Mr. Louis R. Pasquale, MD, FARVO, Deputy Chair for Ophthalmology Research for the Mount Sinai Health System remarked that “we previously published work suggesting that high caffeine intake increased the risk of the high-tension open-angle glaucoma among people with a family history of the disease. In this study, we show that an adverse relation between high caffeine intake and glaucoma was evident only among those with the highest genetic risk score for elevated eye pressure.”

A team of researchers used the UK Biobank, a large-scale population-based biomedical database backed by various health and governmental agencies. Between 2006 and 2010, they analyzed the records of more than 120,000 participants. They ranged in age from 39 to 73 years old and gave health records along with DNA samples, collected to generate data.

The group answered a series of dietary questionnaires focusing on how many caffeinated beverages they consume daily, how much caffeine-containing food they eat, the types of caffeine, and portion size.

They also answered questions about their vision, including if they had glaucoma or a family history of glaucoma. Three years into the study later they had their IOP evaluated and eye measurements.

The investigators discovered that excessive caffeine consumption was not linked to an increased risk of higher IOP or glaucoma overall, however, among participants with the strongest genetic predisposition to elevated IOP in the top 25 percentile-greater caffeine consumption was associated with higher IOP and higher glaucoma prevalence.

More specifically, those who consumed the highest amount of caffeine per day more than 480 milligrams which are roughly four cups of coffee had a 0.35 mmHg higher IOP. Furthermore, those with the highest genetic risk score who consumed more than 321 milligrams of daily caffeine nearly three cups of coffee had a 3.9-fold higher glaucoma prevalence when compared to those who drink no or minimal caffeine and in the lowest genetic risk score group.

Co-author Dr. Anthony Khawaja pointed out that “Glaucoma patients often ask if they can help to protect their sight through lifestyle changes, however, this has been a relatively understudied area until now. This study suggested that those with the highest genetic risk for glaucoma may benefit from moderating their caffeine intake. It should be noted that the link between caffeine and glaucoma risk was only seen with a large amount of caffeine and in those with the highest genetic risk.”

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